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  • Featured ImageGuns N Roses Appetite for Democracy – GNR Rocks the Joint in this Blu-ray Release!

    Appetite for Democracy features Guns N Roses during their Las Vegas residency, playing the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
    Appetite for Democracy features Guns N Roses during their Las Vegas residency, playing the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.



    In 2012, Guns N Roses came to Sin City, performing a residency at the Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Despite various lineup changes over the years and drama galore, the Guns N Roses name is still strong in the world of rock.

    For this release, the band lineup is comprised of Axl Rose, Dizzy Reed, Tommy Stinson, DJ Ashba, Bumblefoot, Richard Fortus, Chris Pitman, and Frank Ferrer. This is the concert that was performed on November 21, 2012. It was given a theatrical release in July of 2014, with the home video release following in November, released on DVD and a hybrid 3D/2D Blu-ray Disc.

    For the Guns N Roses residency at the Hard Rock Hotel, the band brought audiences a powerful eight (!) piece band – three guitarists, two keyboardists, one drummer, one bassist, and of course, Mr. Rose himself. With elaborate on stage production combining customized set pieces and stage shows, the band covers all the old classics, along with cuts from the newest Guns N Roses album, Chinese Democracy (which is not that new anymore) and even some unexpected surprise cover songs!


    Tracklist for the concert. The show alone runs nearly three hours!
    Tracklist for the concert. The show alone runs nearly three hours!


    Say what you will about Axl Rose; this is a powerful concert experience that any fan of the band, old or new, will definitely want to see and hear for themselves. The concert itself runs nearly three hours in length, making this the longest consecutive concert I have ever seen on home video. That said, the band still does a good job of holding the attention of listeners and viewers throughout it all; no easy task given the lengthy duration!

    The band does not skimp on the theatrics; the stage is customized for the performance, complete with elaborate setup and scantily clad dancing girls for the entertainment of the audience. The band is on fire here; even the aging Rose still sings surprisingly good (no, he does not sound exactly the same that he did two decades ago, but who does?) We get plenty of solos and other unexpected surprises that keep things fresh throughout. Guns N Roses is a band that demands not only good music but a visual aspect to their shows as well; you will be pleased to see that the band has pulled that off beautifully here!

    The Blu-ray Disc features both 2D and 3D viewing modes, though I was only able to view the 2D version for the sake of this review. Picture quality is good overall on the disc, though parts do look a little murky, largely when the stage is bathed in blue light. The audio options get the job done; no major complaints on that end of things.

    Bonus features include a photo slideshow gallery (strangely devoid of music) and interviews with four members of the band, detailing their musical pasts and how they came to be in the band over the years. It is a nice set of supplements and goes great with the concert.

    If you are a Guns N Roses fan and want to see this incarnation of the band doing their thing live in an exciting setting, this is the perfect Blu-ray Disc for you. A solid performance from the band is supported beautifully by an elaborate, action-packed stage show that will never let your attention fade during its lengthy run time. Fans cannot go wrong here. Highly recommended!



  • Featured ImageMotorhead – Bad Magic Marks the Legendary Metal Act’s 22nd Studio Album!

    Bad Magic is Motorhead's 22nd studio record.
    Bad Magic is Motorhead’s 22nd studio record.



    For Motorhead it has been a long and interesting journey through the world of classic hard rock and heavy metal. Ex-Hawkwind member Lemmy Kilmister created one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, and the name has persevered for four decades now, spawning countless classic albums and tracks that remain the favorite of many a headbanger.

    Believe it or not, Bad Magic is Motorhead’s 22nd studio album! The band still has a reputation all over the world, amongst fans who love to see the band in concert and hear each and every new release. Sadly, Kilmister’s strenuous lifestyle has caught up with him in recent years; as of the writing of this review he had to cancel a show in Salt Lake City just three or four songs in a few days ago. Having seen him play roughly a week ago, I can confirm that he is not in the best of shape (he definitely sounded weakened near the end of the show I saw) but this fan wishes him a speedy recovery so he can return to the stage and do what he has done best for forty plus years.

    Naturally, fans are clamoring to get their hands on the latest release from Kilmister and company; the current lineup that teams him up with Mikkey Dee and Phil Campbell has stood longer than any other in the band’s history; both musicians are amongst the finest that the group has featured. Is Bad Magic an album worth picking up?

    Bad Magic does not reinvent the wheel in a musical sense, but it gives Motorhead fans just what they are expecting – kick-ass, hard and heavy, gritty rock and roll served up by one of the genre’s most iconic frontmen. The songs on the album are very short and to the point; many of them do not even exceed the three minute mark! Despite this, the group still manages to make for an interesting listening experience. Aside from a ballad in the album’s latter half, most of this album is the gritty hard rock we have come to love from Kilmister and company for so very long now. A surprisingly good cover of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Sympathy for the Devil” makes for an unexpected but no less excellent conclusion to this listening experience; hats off to the band for staying true to the Stones’ original but not blatantly copying it either.

    Okay, as much as I love the album, I will not deny that nothing on here is the creative equal of what they did in their classic incarnation with “Fast” Eddie Clarke and “Philthy Animal” Phil Taylor; those were the band’s golden days. This album is not likely to ever be revered as a classic in the same degree of gems like Overkill, Bomber, and Ace of Spades. Does that mean it is a weak album? By no means whatsoever. Established fans know what to expect from the band at this point, and this album does not throw any punches or take any unexpected twists and turns. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

    There is a very good possibility that Bad Magic will be Motorhead’s final studio album. If that is truly the case, let it be said that Lemmy Kilmister and company have gone out with a bang. Concise and to the point with only a handful of unexpected moments, this is the band playing it safe, and there is nothing wrong with that. For established fans of the group, this one is well worth adding to your collection.



  • Featured ImageDio Holy Diver Live – Fantastic Live Performance from the Late, Great Ronnie James Dio!

    Holy Diver Live features a concert recorded by the Dio band in 2005.
    Holy Diver Live features a concert recorded by the Dio band in 2005.



    In 2010, the world lost one of its true heavy metal greats – Ronnie James Dio. Over the years, this rock god unleashed countless classic hard rock hits on the world, with multiple bands. From Rainbow to Black Sabbath, to his eponymous band, there is no heavy metal fan who does not know the Dio name.

    The 2005 tour saw the Dio band doing one of their most unique shows, combining classic hits from all of Ronnie James Dio’s past bands with a full performance of the classic 1983 Holy Diver LP. For these shows, the lineup teamed Ronnie James Dio with guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Burning Rain, Raiding the Rock Vault), keyboardist Scott Warren (Heaven and Hell, Keel, Hellion), bassist Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Blue Oyster Cult) and drummer Simon Wright (AC/DC, Hellion, Operation: Mindcrime). While none these players aside from Mr. Dio himself appeared on the original Holy Diver record, no one can deny that they are all players that have left a tremendous mark on the hard rock and heavy metal world, and are more than worthy of playing alongside one of the genre’s greatest voices.

    This concert was recorded in 2005, the year after Dio released Master of the Moon, which would ultimately be the final studio album released under the Dio band name. Following this live show, the band would go on a hiatus (which became permanent due to Ronnie James Dio’s death in 2010) to reform the Dio-era Black Sabbath lineup under the name Heaven and Hell. Following Dio’s passing, many of these musicians went on to play in the Dio Disciples band, keeping these iconic heavy metal songs alive for fans all over the world.

    The concert featured on this disc was released as a two CD set, and as a DVD/Blu-ray Disc. Audio versions of the concert have the tracks arranged with all of the Holy Diver songs on one disc and the additional tracks on the other, whereas the video versions have those tracks in the middle, bookended by the other songs.


    Tracklist for the concert.
    Tracklist for the concert.


    What is featured on here more or less marks the end of the Dio band, due to Ronnie James Dio leaving to form Heaven and Hell with his old Black Sabbath bandmates not long after. The tracklist features the whole Holy Diver album plus other classics from the Dio band, and early Ronnie James Dio bands like Black Sabbath and Rainbow. Although members of this lineup played on the later Dio LPs, it is interesting to note that there is no song here that was released after 1984’s The Last in Line, making this album something of a tribute to Dio’s early years, but performed with his then current band.

    The actual performance itself is great; you are going to see Ronnie James Dio alongside some of the best musicians he ever got to perform with. If you are at all a Dio fan, the songs themselves require no introduction; you have already heard them countless times on their respective studio albums. This is a solid performance with no dull moments and a great variety of older Dio and pre-Dio songs. I personally wish they would have included a few of the cuts from the later studio albums that these musicians actually performed on, but that is a very minor complaint. Aldrich’s guitar solo and Wright’s drum solo are amongst the true highlights here, but there is never any real “down time.” We even get a humorous Star Wars-esque “crawl text” sequence explaining how the “Disco Empire” has been defeated by the “Dio Armada!” It was great to see this version of the Dio band paying homage to one of the most classic of all Dio records, and throw in some other classics for good measure.

    The video quality is great throughout the disc, aside from the footage that was taken from the “stage right” camera spanning the stage; those shots came out looking very murky and unattractive. But aside from that one hiccup, the rest of the disc looks good. Multiple audio options are offered, and the disc has the superb aural quality one would want to have on a Dio Blu-ray release. As a bonus feature, a brief (about 12 minutes) interview with the band is included, featuring some entertaining backstage footage.

    Ronnie James Dio’s music will live forever, and this is a great look at one of the Dio band’s final concerts, with one of its best lineups ever. If you are at all a fan of classic hard rock or heavy metal, whether or not you should add this Blu-ray Disc to your collection is a no-brainer. Highly recommended release!



  • Featured ImageBlack N Blue – Rockin’ on Sin City’s Door!

    Black N Blue played Vamp'd on Saturday, August 22, 2015. TailGun was the support act.
    Black N Blue played Vamp’d on Saturday, August 22, 2015. TailGun was the support act.



    Black N Blue is one of the most criminally underrated hard rock bands of the 80s. Featuring some of the top players of the era, this was a band that should have been huge, but never took off the way many of their peers did. The group’s classic lineup featured vocalist Jaime St. James, drummer Pete Holmes, bassist Patrick Young, and guitarists Jeff “Woop” Warner and Tommy Thayer. Following the recording of four classic studio albums in the 80s, including two produced by Gene Simmons, the band members went their separate ways, but eventually reunited.

    The current version of Black N Blue features St. James, Holmes, and Young, and new guitarists Brandon Cook and Shawn Sonnenschein; Thayer is not participating in the current version of the band as he is now in KISS, a position he has held with that band for years now. While Black N Blue has not released anything new outside of a reunion album a few years ago, they have definitely kept busy touring, especially amidst a revival in the popularity of 80s bands.

    This was Black N Blue’s first show at Vamp’d since November of 2013, though Jaime St. James had recently played the venue as a member of the Let it Rawk 80s tribute band. Needless to say, the band still has a large following in Las Vegas; they brought out a good-sized crowd that stood as solid proof of this! St. James’ Let it Rawk bandmates Stacey Blades (LA Guns) and Oz Fox (Stryper) were in attendance as well!


    TailGun vocalist Dru Jaxin.
    TailGun vocalist Dru Jaxin.


    TailGun kicked off the evening’s festivities. For the past year I have been following these guys, and Sin City is apparently impressed and satisfied by what they hear! The group has recorded a few songs, and is now at that point where they can build a whole setlist around original songs; no easy task in a sea of cover/tribute bands! The group’s “back to basics” bluesy hard rock style is reminiscent of bands like AC/DC, but you can also tell that their influences come from other places as well. Vocalist Dru Jaxin has long been one of my favorite performers on the Vegas scene; prior to this he fronted an Iron Maiden tribute, which goes to show just how diverse of a musical repertoire he is capable of dishing out. From bluesy rockers to hard rock with ridiculous, Spinal Tap-esque lyrics, these guys know how to rock. I look forward to seeing them release new recordings in 2016.


    TailGun rocking the Vamp'd stage!
    TailGun rocking the Vamp’d stage!



    TailGun setlist. Note the abundance of original material.
    TailGun setlist. Note the abundance of original material.


    While Black N Blue may not have gotten the same level of popularity that many other acts from the same era and scene did, the band still commands a large and loyal musical following. Anyone who has listened to the classic four albums released by the band knows the diverse musical sounds they explored in their relatively short heyday, from pop rockers to straight-up hard and heavy stuff. Anyone who attended this show got to see a solid mixture of cuts from those four records, plus songs from their fairly recent reunion album, Hell Yeah!.

    Usually I hate it when bands lose classic members, namely the guitarists in the case of Black N Blue. But, in recent years, Cook and Sonnenschein have stepped up to the plate and proven themselves to be absolute bad-asses that more than do justice to the material, old and new alike (Tommy Thayer’s role in KISS means a reunion of the complete classic version of the band remains unlikely). That said, we have three fifths of the classic lineup and the fairly new arrivals more than fit the bill!


    Black N Blue setlist, comprising songs from their entire career.
    Black N Blue setlist, comprising songs from their entire career.


    The setlist for this evening was one of the best fans could have asked for. This running order heavily emphasized tracks from their Dieter Dirks-produced 1984 debut, which remains the finest record in their catalogue. The ending of the show, in particular, emphasized many of the classic tracks from the debut, including “Chains Around Heaven,” “Hold On To 18,” and “School of Hard Knocks.” Tracks from later albums got emphasis as well, including classic minor hits like “Miss Mystery” (which will always be iconic for its classic music video of the band playing on the wings of an airplane in flight) and “Nasty Nasty.” Of course, the band was more than willing to dig into the vault and pull out classic deep cuts, including “Autoblast,” “Stop the Lightning,” “Rockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” and “Wicked Bitch.” The newer songs flowed seamlessly into the setlist; everything gelled together nicely throughout the entire experince, making for a nice assortment of songs for everyone in attendance. One need only look at the setlist above to get an idea of what the band played, and how diverse an array of tracks they assembled for the occasion!


    Black N' Blue on stage at Vamp'd in Las Vegas!
    Black ‘N Blue on stage at Vamp’d in Las Vegas!


    Of course, the actual performance more than lived up to what the fans wanted. Over three decades after their earliest recordings, Jaime St. James still looks and sounds exactly the same as he did back then; not an easy thing for anyone in this industry to pull off. The classic frontman stole the show with his vocals and on-stage antics; you can tell this guy loves entertaining the crowd! The twin guitar attack was equally powerful, and you could tell just how much musical potential there is here. Will we get another album out of these guys? Only time will tell, but after seeing this performance, I can safely say that fans would welcome it!




    Black N Blue still knows how to command a crowd 30+ years on, and it becomes evident and prevalent from the moment they start performing. It is great to see that the group still sounds excellent and is making good music over the years passing by. Here is hoping that a new album is on the horizon., or maybe even some long overdue catalogue reissues. If you are a fan, do not pass up an opportunity to see the band live.





    PHOTO CREDIT: April Dawn Plant ©2015- ZRock’R Magazine  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

  • Featured ImageBon Jovi – Burning Bridges is an “Odds and Ends” Collection Not Worth Your Time or Money

    Burning Bridges is the new "odds and ends" release from Bon Jovi and their final record with Mercury.
    Burning Bridges is the new “odds and ends” release from Bon Jovi and their final record with Mercury.



    In the 80s, Bon Jovi were the kings of the music world; their 1986 record Slippery When Wet remains revered as one of the greatest of the era. Unlike many of their contemporaries, the band has even managed to change with the times and maintain much of their former popularity; a feat that very few have been able to accomplish in a changing musical climate as unpredictable as life itself.

    In recent times, Bon Jovi saw the departure of guitarist Richie Sambora, and the band’s parting ways with Mercury Records, the label they have been affiliated with ever since they entered the professional music making world. As thanks to their fans and as a way of ending their relationship with Mercury, Bon Jovi has released Burning Bridges, an “odds and ends” album comprised of a mixture of outtakes, unreleased songs, and other new material.

    While it is true that Bon Jovi has persevered like few other bands from their era, the fact is that the quality of their music declined drastically as they began embracing more commercial trends, which has been largely noticeable with the arrival of the new millennium. The band’s attempts at pop oriented music have been met with a mixed reception, even if the group still managed to put out a decent hit album or single every now and then. Commercially the band is still popular and viable, even if they have drawn the ire of their former rock-oriented fanbase in many cases; the golden days of Slippery When Wet are long past them.

    I was curious to see what the band had to offer on Burning Bridges; even with the more commercial sound, the group does still manage to occasionally serve up some good music. Unfortunately, I can be the first to tell you that the music contained on this “odds and end” CD is absolute garbage. Do you loathe the more recent Bon Jovi albums? Well, this is more or less that stuff that was not “good” enough to end up on those records, which were not that good to begin with. If that does not get my point across, I do not know what will!

    Modern pop/Top 40 sounds. Techno/dance sounds. Country-flavored pop. That is just some of what you will be subjected to in these 40 minutes of your life you will never be able to get back. The aging rock act (if you can even still call them a rock act) has officially hit rock bottom with the release of Burning Bridges. I have nothing against a band modernizing their sound, but here the band lacks any semblance of what they once were. This is not the classic 80s rock/pop band legions of fans fell in love with back in the Decade of Decadence. It is watered down filth that screams “sell out.”

    That said, there IS one redeeming aspect to this album, and that is the title track. Folksy and happy despite its scathing and unpleasant message to Mercury Records, it is the sort of thing one would expect to find on a Traveling Wilburys album. This particular song got more than a few giggles out of me and is surprisingly entertaining. One good song in ten does not save the album, but after you have finished reading, the link to this one redeeming tune is below.

    The past few Bon Jovi albums have largely been dismal commercial affairs doing little to advance their sound, even if they kept the band in the spotlight. These are the discarded scraps that were not good enough to make it onto those efforts, and apart from the humorous title cut, all of this is disposable. If you are a Bon Jovi fan who collects every single thing they put out, then by all means add this to your collection. I will be sticking with 80s rock bands that, while not as commercially successful or popular in the modern day, have stayed true to themselves. The music on this record is dismal sell-out garbage. Slippery When Wet it ain’t. I (for some reason I cannot comprehend) will remain optimistic for their next album proper which is due out next year. In the meantime, do not bother with this one.